Fr. Rick’s Homily: Pentecost Sunday

May 28, 2023

Acts 2:1-11; 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34; 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13; Jn 20:19-23

Often the homily is even more refined after several preachings, so possible revisions may occur during the week.

Last week in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus directed us to teach the nations all that He commanded us. Today in John’s Gospel He follows up by reminding us that “as the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  This directive is given to a group of disciples who are terrified of being persecuted and killed as Jesus was.  What could ever get them to do the seemingly impossible mission of teaching ‘the nations’ so effectively that the listeners would want to get baptized and take up the same mission?  We know that just as all the power and authority of heaven was given to Jesus in order to complete His mission, He then in turn conferred that authority on to the Church. Us.

The authority of heaven comes with the gifts necessary to do the job.  We are endowed with the very Wisdom, Knowledge, Strength and Understanding of God Himself.  Awesome! We can ALSO live genuinely Pious lives and effectively Counsel others to do so.  In our broken, wounded and confused world, this would seem to take a miracle!  Many, MANY miracles.  Of course, because God promised to be with us to the end of time, we know that the miracles are ready to happen whenever we are open to the many gifts God has given us.  Miracles are not the same of magic, though.

If someone would have told our great grandparents (for some of us great-GREAT grandparents) that electricity would be available with the mere flick of a switch or even a voice command, they would have thought that was a mere fantasy.  It would take a miracle.  Thomas Edison, who is given most the credit for inventing electricity, is believed to have said, “Invention is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.”  Meaning a LOT OF WORK.  A lot of trial and error.  BUT ‘inspired’ trial and error.  Perhaps some patience and raw stamina as well.  We can think of countless innovations from the last 100 or 50 or 25 years that seemed inconceivable before their invention.  Internet, laser technologies, Salt and Vinegar Pringles, 96% fat free hot dogs, cars that routinely last over 200,000 miles, etc., etc.

It seems that there are many areas of modern life that are crying out for miracles the likes of which we have not seen.  I don’t want to wreck a great holiday weekend by naming off a long list of problems that seem to be beyond our reach.  Take a moment and consider a few of these… that’s enough, you’ll just get depressed.  You probably thought about inflation, gas prices, suicide rates among the young, random gun violence, disparity in wealth and the resentment that seems to breed among the have nots, extreme weather patterns….

Think of all the people who feel left out or are genuinely lacking in the essentials of life such as sufficient nutrition, safety, housing, health care or opportunities to develop and share their God-given gifts in a healthy, holy community.  These extreme levels of deprivation are huge contributors to much of the distrust, violence and tribulation in the world.

We need a little inspiration and probably a lot of perspiration to effectively address these problems.  Here’s an idea… or perhaps a fantasy.  Bear with me while I solve the problems of the world.

What if the wealthiest people in the world convinced 3 of the their closest friends to sell their castles and buy decapitated city block of say Detroit, Miami, Cleveland, Baltimore, etc., etc.  Then discover the world class farm land underneath the pavement.  Start a huge community garden and around the garden build some esthetically beautiful housing units that the prosperous will actually move into and live in indefinitely alongside everyone else.  Of course everyone else would need to develop the interpersonal skills to live in this community and contribute their own unique gifts.  There could be little golf courses on adjoining blocks, art studios, basketball and tennis courts, pottery barns, wood shops.  Every block could feature a different activity which would encourage the discovery and development of peoples’ gifts and then share them with the community.

We hear a lot about people of color not trusting the people of no color… in many cases understandably.  Get a group of million dollar athletes from the Detroit Lions, Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons, etc.  They could move right onto the blocks and regularly conduct sports clinics which many do already.  They could also demonstrate working in the garden and what could have more meaning and dignity that providing food for families.  The pro athletes could get back in touch with the vast majority of their former college and even high school teammates who never made the pros and didn’t have a great backup plan.  The big strong bodies would be an enormous help to developing the garden and doing much of the demolition and construction work that is necessary in massive urban renovation.

The abandoned castles, mansions and estates could become retreat centers for regular periods of spiritual and emotional renewal.  There are unlimited variations to this idea.  The key, of course would be that the strong and competitive and prosperous would actually LIVE in the new community.  And enjoy it!!!  AND the rest of us would discover our charisms and develop the interpersonal skills to live in a more interdependent community.

Of course this would never happen.  It’s like the internet and laser surgery and 96% fat-free hotdogs and Pringles.  Never happen.  No way.  Really?  This is called contemplating the Kingdom of God.  That’s why God gave us the many gifts and charisms of the Holy Spirit.  We have everything we really need.

1 Corinthians 12To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.  As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ

On this feast of Pentecost, we usually celebrate especially the GIFTS of the Holy Spirit with which we are sealed at Confirmation.  They are:  Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, Fear (Awe) of the Lord and are intended primarily for our personal sanctification.  Today’s second reading from 1 Corinthians talks about what are usually considered the CHARISMS of the Holy Spirit.  Specific charisms are given to each baptized person to build up the Church and to be utilized in conjunction with a community of believers to then go forth and build up the Kingdom of God.  Our purpose on earth is to get to heaven and to make the world look more like heaven than hell on our way to heaven.

During our earthly journey we are no match for the devil.  Our many intractable problems attest to that.  For this we are given all this help from the Holy Spirit.  We ignore this help at our peril.

The Sienna Institute in Colorado Springs  is a widely used source for this study of charisms.  They list the charisms in this order:  Encouragement; Hospitality; Helps; Pastoring; Mercy, Evangelism; Prophecy; Teaching, Giving; Leadership; Service; Administration, Healing; Intercessory Prayer, Knowledge; Wisdom; Discernment of Spirits, Celibacy; Faith; Missionary; Voluntary Poverty, Craftsmanship; Music; Writing.

These gifts are supernatural and make it possible to rise above the earthly realm of what we often think is normal or natural.  Our culture’s growing confusion about ‘normal’ sexual behavior, for example, is a direct result of not identifying for instance the charism of celibacy.  Our high divorce rates, abortion, the added stress within single parent families and the perceived need for a ‘Pride Month’ could be effectively mitigated with a better understanding of celibacy, (along with chastity, natural family planning), and all the rest of the charisms.  People must have intimacy and community to be happy, holy and healthy.  When all of our gifts are contributed, we have something very closely resembling the Kingdom of God; One Body, One Spirit in Christ.

It requires lots of inspiration and probably even more PERSpiration.

The world we want is waiting for us to say YES to all that God has given us. This week I would encourage everyone to just take some quiet time and contemplate, imagine the Heaven.  The Kingdom of God.  That idea is possible.  If you are visiting southern Utah from somewhere that does not look at all like southern Utah, then your whole thought process has been disrupted.  Things already look very different.  Also, consider which charisms God may have given you to be an ESSENTIAL part of the big rebuild.